Open letter: Let STEPS Forward students participate

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To members of the University of Victoria Senate,

Re: STEPS Forward student participation in convocation [Read story here.]

We are writing to you regarding the proposal to include members of the
STEPS Forward program who have completed their studies in convocation
proceedings. In fulfillment of our partnership in the STEPS Forward
program, and in the spirit of the program itself, we believe that STEPS
Forward students should be included in University of Victoria convocation
ceremonies. In the upcoming Senate meeting, we urge you to vote in favour
of the balanced changes to the convocation proceedings that will allow
UVic’s STEPS Forward students to graduate with dignity, and the
recognition they deserve. This change should be implemented without delay
so that Nathan Bodie can, after five years of study at UVic, receive his
certificate of completion at the June convocation with his peers.

The University of Victoria has partnered with the STEPS Forward program to
improve access to academia and create an inclusive learning experience for
those with developmental disabilities. This proposal will better help us
to meet the standards of this laudable program, creating a more inclusive
convocation ceremony for the University of Victoria. We believe that the
accomplishments of all students should all be celebrated – and see the
exclusion of inclusive education program students from convocation
ceremonies as an act of discrimination.

The University of Victoria is the only campus in British Columbia where
inclusive education program students are not allowed to graduate with
their peers. We view this as unacceptable, especially given UVic’s
reputation as an inclusive and progressive institution. We call on you to
vote yes on Friday in order to address this discriminatory practice, and
ensure that all students can be recognized for their academic
accomplishments. We think that this issue needs to spark a broader
discussion regarding ableism and discrimination on campus, and Senate
should be a leader in this regard.

Sincerely,

Paige Bennett, student senator (Social Sciences)

Zoë-Blue Coates, student senator (Humanities)

Ann-Bernice Thomas, student senator (Fine Arts)

Samual Maroney, student senator (Law)

Dheeraj Alamchandani, student senator (Engineering)

Cory Shankman, student senator (Graduate Studies)

Michelle Brown, student senator (Social Sciences)

Ben Lukenchuk, student senator (Social Sciences)

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